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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni Debut Feature Film ‘Cheerleader’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Irving Franco debuted his first feature film, Cheerleader, produced in collaboration with two fellow NYFA alumni, brothers Dario and Fabián Vejarano.

    Irving, who grew up in Brooklyn, graduated from NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory in 2008 at NYFA’s New York campus. There he met fellow 1-Year Filmmaking student Dario Vejarano, who originally hails from Spain and who shot Cheerleader as director of photography. His brother Fabián attended NYFA’s 8-Week Screenwriting workshop in July 2014.

    Irving Franco Cheerleader

    NYFA alum Irving Franco

    “My time at NYFA was really important to me,” says Franco. “That’s where I met some great friends and long-term collaborators. That’s where I had the chance to try things, experiment, mess up, and learn. Filmmaking is not easy, but it is a deeply rewarding experience. NYFA is where that started for me.”

    Franco’s hard work, networking, and experimenting paid off as he was able write and direct a feature film, Cheerleader, which has gone on to perform well on the festival circuit since its premiere. 

    The film tells the story of Mickey, a promiscuous teenager reeling from heartbreak who seeks calculated revenge on her ex-boyfriend. To date it’s been an Official Selection for a dozen film festivals across the country—including the New Orleans Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, and Florida Film Festival—picking up several nominations and awards along the way, including two special jury prizes and a top 40 ranking out of 7,500 Slamdance Film Festival submissions.

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA alumni Irving Franco, Dario Vejarano ,and Fabián Vejarano on the success of Cheerleader and encourages everyone to check out the film, available now on iTunes and Amazon video.

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  • ‘Boxing Girls’ Features Two New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni

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    Boxing Girls, a new Arabic-language drama from the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) premiered earlier this year and is the screenwriting debut of New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Afnan Alqasimi. Additionally, the program features actress and NYFA alum Dana Al Salem.

    Alqasimi hails from the United Arab Emirates and attended NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2012. Alqasimi previously worked on the animation short Homecoming. Al Salem is originally from Bahrain and enrolled in NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop at our Los Angeles campus in August 2015. Al Salem previously appeared in The Sleeping Tree and the short film Canary.

    Boxing Girls is gaining buzz for its focus on female characters and stars several well-known Arabic performers, including Fatima Al Hosani, Ali Al Sherif, and Shaifan Al Otaibi. The program was directed by Saudi filmmaker Samir Aref and was produced by O3 Productions and twofour54 Abu Dhabi.

    Boxing Girls

    “This drama production is particularly unique, because it puts a real emphasis on the region’s young talent — both in front of and behind the camera,” says Maryam Eid AlMheiri, CEO of Media Zone Authority, Abu Dhabi (MZA) and twofour54.

    The program was shot over two months across various locations in Abu Dhabi, before completing production in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Additional cast members include Mila Zahrani, Abdul Aziz Skeirin, Alaa Shaker, Anoud Al Saoud, Abeer Sander, Noura Ezzer, Mohammed Meshaal, Rakan, Zuhair Haider, and Zara Al Balushi.

    Boxing Girls debuted in February of this year.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates workshop alumni Afnan Alqasimi and  Dana Al Salem on the production and success of Boxing Girls

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    April 17, 2019 • #WomenOfNYFA, Abu Dhabi, Acting, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1273

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Abby Ajayi Featured in Largest Hollywood Reporter Photo Shoot Ever

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    Abby Ajayi, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum, was one of 63 black female writers featured in an epic photo shoot by The Hollywood Reporter late last year. In a rebuke to the industry sentiment that it’s hard to diversify writers rooms because there aren’t enough women writers and writers of color to choose from, the industry magazine gathered dozens of women from the networking group Black Women Who Brunch.

    Black Women Who Brunch (BWB) was founded in 2014 by television writers Nkechi Okoro Carroll, Erika L. Johnson, and Lena Waithe as a way to get black female TV writers a chance to meet, support, and get to know one another. Their first meeting was in March 2014 and had 12 attendees. The current membership of BWB is now around 80.

    In addition to taking photos, many of the women shared their experiences and thoughts on being black women television writers—many of whom were the only person of color on their staff. NYFA alum Abby Ajayi was one of those at the shoot interviewed. Unlike many of her peers, she wasn’t the only woman or person of color in her writers room.

    Abby Ajayi

    “On How to Get Away With Murder,” Ajayi toldThe Hollywood Reporter, “there were seven women in the room and six were women of color. It didn’t fall on one person to be the voice of all women or all black people. Having multiple women from diverse ethnic backgrounds broadened the conversation, which in turn led to richer, deeper characters.” 

    Ajayi added, “It’s also inspiring to see the women higher up the ladder prove that there is a path.”

    Ajayi originally hails from Nigeria and attended NYFA’s Screenwriting school in 2011. In addition to How to Get Away with Murder, Ajayi has worked on Eastenders, Doctors, and Hetty Feather. She is currently co-producing Hulu’s limited series adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting alum Abby Ajayi on her current success and encourages everyone to read The Hollywood Reporter’s piece!

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    April 16, 2019 • Diversity, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1700

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor Matt Harry

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    With his debut novel published last October and development underway for his animated pilot, New York Film Academy (NYFA) screenwriting instructor Matt Harry is making waves in the industry. A multi-hyphenate, Matt’s not only a writer—he’s an editor, director, and producer. Matt took some time to chat about his career, teaching, and the time he made a fool of himself in front of Tom Hanks.

    NYFA: Where are you from originally? 

    MH: I was born in West Virginia, but my parents moved around a lot. We ended up in Cleveland when I was in sixth grade.

    NYFA: Growing up, what did you want to be? 

    MH: I wrote a novel in seventh grade, so I wanted to be an author from a young age. Later I became interested in theatre, then filmmaking, but eventually I went back to writing. 

     

     

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What’s your professional background? 

    Matt Harry (MH): After I graduated, I spent 12 years working as an editor on shows like The Bachelor while continuing to write. I’ve written screenplays for various production companies and my feature film Fugue, which I wrote and produced, was named Best Horror Film at the Mississippi International Film Festival. My short Super Kids, which I wrote and co-directed, has over 3.7 million views on YouTube and is being developed into a feature by Temple Hill and Fox 2000.

    NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

    MH: A chance encounter with my former USC classmate Eric Conner at a coffee shop led to me to NYFA.

    NYFA: What are you working on right now? 

    MH: My novel Sorcery for Beginners was released last October, so I’ve been busy promoting that. I’m also developing a TV adaptation of Sorcery as well as an animated pilot I wrote called Monster Cops. I also have a couple new book projects I’m finishing!

    NYFA: What was the most satisfying project you’ve created or worked on in your career so far? 

    MH: My short film Super Kids was the first project I worked on where the finished product looked almost exactly like what I imagined it could be. 

     

    NYFA: What is your favorite course to teach?  

    MH: The thesis screenwriting workshops.

    NYFA: What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current students?  

    MH: Keep working. I’ve met very few artistic geniuses, but my own career is a testament to the fact that if you keep pushing, working and revising, you’ll improve.

    NYFA: What is your favorite aspect of teaching?  

    MH: Frequently I’ll be discussing a student’s project, and I’ll have a realization about not only their work, but mine as well. Thanks to the students, I’m constantly learning and improving.

    NYFA: What is most challenging about teaching for you? 

    MH: Finding enough time. I could talk about story development all day, but with less than three hours per class, we have to set timers to get to everyone!

    NYFA: What is the most helpful advice you’ve received?  

    MH: “Stick with it. Even if you don’t make it, eventually everyone you know will make it, and you make it by proxy.” I have absolutely found this to be true.

    NYFA: Who has influenced you the most in life?

    MH: My wife Juliane. Her work ethic, morality, and positive attitude inspire me to be a better person.

    NYFA: What creators have influenced you the most? 

    MH: Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, David Lynch, Edgar Wright, Colin Meloy, Madeline L’Engle, Stanley Kubrick, Philip Pullman, and Wes Anderson.

    NYFA: What do you do to take a break from work and teaching? 

    MH: Video games, going to restaurants, and hanging out with my family. 

    NYFA: What is an interesting fact about yourself your students and fellow faculty might not know about you?  

    MH: I interviewed Tom Hanks for the Cleveland Plain Dealer when I was 15 years old. I had no idea what I was doing, but he was incredibly gracious. I remember shouting out some inane question about Madonna, but he treated me like every other adult journalist there.

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    April 15, 2019 • Digital Editing, Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 1051

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Grads Attend Industry Pitch Fest Event

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    It was a time of celebration once again as graduating MFA New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting students recently attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event, held in the penthouse ballroom of the Andaz Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, surrounded by astounding views of Los Angeles.  

    A catered event and mingling opportunity for students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone evening celebrates the New York Film Academy’s graduating Screenwriting students, offering them a unique opportunity to jumpstart their professional development by pitching their Film and TV thesis projects to entertainment industry professionals. In addition, a very talented alum of the Screenwriting Department also joined in the event.

    2019 Pitch Fest

    Organized and hosted by Jenni Powell, Ashley Bank, and Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from Hollywood companies, including Monkeypaw, MGM, Practical Magic, Paramount, Automatik, Grandview, and Gulfstream Pictures.

    The exceptional writing students spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting classes working with Business of Screenwriting Instructor Ashley Bank in conjunction with NYFA Screenwriting Chair Nunzio DeFilippis and other members of the Screenwriting department, preparing and fine tuning their pitches.  

    The students’ dedication and passionate love for their work shone as they pitched their thesis projects, which they had developed for nearly a year. Students left with new contacts, excitement about the scripts they’d worked so hard on, and a sense of what it’s like to meet with industry professionals.  

    Their hard work paid off as the talented and creative students pitched agents, managers, studios, and digital, VR, TV and film production executives in a relaxed, roundtable environment.

    “My experience at Pitch Fest was excellent to say the least,” shares David Barbeschi, one of the graduating MFA students at the event. “Nothing like pitching to people who listen to these things as a job to better yourself and see where you stand in the immense LA Film Industry.”

    The New York Film Academy wishes to thank all of the Industry Pitch Fest participants, particularly our industry guests without whom this evening could not have been possible. Also, we’d like to extend a big congratulations to all of our MFA graduates and wish them the best of success as they move forward in their professional journeys!

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    March 12, 2019 • Screenwriting • Views: 1399

  • Broadcast Club at New York Film Academy (NYFA) Work the WGA Awards Red Carpet

    FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailEarlier this February, members of the Broadcast Club at New York Film Academy (NYFA) got to see some Hollywood stars up close and personal on the red carpet at the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards. Even better, they got to interview some of them!

    NYFA Broadcast Club WGA Awards 2019
    The Writers Guild of America is the largest guild for Hollywood and industry screenwriters. Along with other major guilds, like the Directors Guild, Producers Guild, and Screen Actors Guild, the WGA gives out a slate of awards during the height of Tinseltown’s Awards Season, with an obvious focus on the scripts and screenplays of the year’s top productions.

    In attendance at the WGA Awards were Broadcast Club president Derek Johnson, II; vice president Eric Alt; PR head Valeriya Mashynets; record keeper Chris Desiderio; and members Anatolii Panchenko and Skylar Duhe.

    The Broadcast Club members got to hone their chops by interviewing celebrities about their craft, including Ed Helms (The Hangover, The Office), as well some of the award winners. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates the Broadcast Club on a job well done! Check out some photos of the students hard at work below!

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    February 22, 2019 • Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights, Student Life • Views: 867

  • Q&A with NYFA Instructor and ‘Project Blue Book’ Creator David O’Leary

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    On Tuesday, January 15, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of the pilot episode of Project Blue Book, a new original series from HISTORY (formerly The History Channel) that adapts the real-life US Air Force investigations of UFOs in the 1950s. The screening was followed by a Q&A with creator and former NYFA screenwriting and producing instructor, David O’Leary, moderated by NYFA Producing instructor, Ashley Bank.

    O’Leary is a former development executive who has worked for Bellevue Productions, Valhalla Entertainment, Kopelson Entertainment, Rogue Pictures, Warner Bros., and Industry Entertainment. He is also a producer on two features set for release this year, Parallel for Bron Studios and Eli for Netflix. Additionally, O’Leary is adapting a sci-fi book series for A+E Studios.

    Project Blue Book David O'Leary

    Bank opened up the Q&A by asking about how O’Leary became a writer. He shared that he started his career as an intern at New Line Cinema and decided he was interested in development, so he moved to Los Angeles where he worked with a friend at Village Roadshow Pictures. From there, O’Leary worked his way up from the mailroom to assistant jobs and became a development executive, himself, at the age of 28. He realized, however, that his true dream was to be a screenwriter. “I pivoted and I’m a big believer in pivoting,” said O’Leary.

    O’Leary shared that even though he knew he was passionate about becoming a professional writer, that wasn’t enough. “Honestly, I had to get good at being a writer; I was not a very good writer when I made that choice.” He continued, “I think the way that you get better at being a writer is you have to keep writing, but you can’t keep writing in a vacuum; you have to keep showing your work to people and you have to keep getting feedback… you need people you trust to tell you ‘Here’s what works, here’s what doesn’t, and here’s why.’”

    O’Leary added that working as a screenwriting instructor at NYFA required him to be extra knowledgeable about professional screenwriting. “It really forced me to practice what I was preaching,” he said. O’Leary then shared that something that helped him stay positive while he worked toward becoming a successful professional screenwriter was “celebrating small victories” because trying to be successful in the entertainment industry is a long and arduous process and one needs to have stamina to make it all the way to their end goal.

    Project Blue Book David O'Leary

    O’Leary made it clear to the audience that hard work is important but sometimes luck also plays a role in success; with Project Blue Book, “It was sort of the right idea at the right time at a network that was looking to grow and move into scripted series.” The simplest way that O’Leary could sum up the show to pitch it to producers was “X-Files meets Mad Men,” which was a concept that had not really been explored before.

    One of the members of the audience inquired about navigating a narrative based on real events. “Every week we look at a real-life case… so it has that kind of ‘based on true events’ cache,” said O’Leary. “[Lead character] Hynek was a real-life guy; we ended up recruiting both [of] his sons as consultants on the project… I really want the show to be entertaining, but I also want to educate people on this phenomenon.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank former instructor David O’Leary for sharing his experiences and advice for writers as well as details about the development and production of Project Blue Book.

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    February 12, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 1480

  • Q&A with ‘A Country Christmas Story’ Filmmakers

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    On Friday, December 14, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of A Country Christmas Story (2013) followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor Eric Bross, and writer and NYFA instructor Steven Peros, moderated by NYFA student, Bakyt Zhumadilova.

    Bross is known for directing Affairs of State (2018), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000) and Peros is known for writing Footprints (2009), The Undying (2009) and The Cat’s Meow (2001).

    A Country Christmas Story

    Zhumadilova opened the Q&A by asking Peros about his inspiration for the screenplay. Peros said he started by researching the history of country music and its prevalence in the South, then adding layers of complexity to the story by making the protagonist both a child of divorce and biracial within that world. 

    Peros also wanted the film to be about the various characters’ relationships with music and the arts and added that the music teacher in the film was inspired by a teacher he had when he was a kid.

    Zhumadilova inquired about what it was like for Peros to write A Country Christmas Story star Dolly Parton’s lines knowing she was going to be playing herself in the film. “The funny thing about writing her was, I had written this thing… and suddenly I’m on set going, ‘I’m about to meet Dolly Parton!’ Is she gonna come up to me and say, ‘Well, first off, Steven, I don’t talk like that at all,’” joked Peros. “But she didn’t at all! She didn’t want to change anything… so I was somehow channeling my inner Dolly Parton.”

    “I just thought he really captured her voice,” added Bross.

    Peros shared that Parton suggested that she sing instead of just introducing the music contest at the end of the film. “She just kept giving us gifts.” said Bross.

    A Country Christmas Story

    Peros shared that one of the most notable moments of the shoot was when Parton sang in between takes to entertain extras in the audience. “She knew that all those extras who were there pretty much for free… were there for her,” he said. “She never left the stage… she sang ‘Tennessee Waltz’… and it was like a moment out of a movie; one by one, everything started to get silent.”

    The discussion then moved onto producing a film like A Country Christmas Story on a tight shoot schedule and a tight budget. Bross advised filmmakers to keep the frame focused on the actors as much as possible when working with a small budget because sometimes it’s difficult to afford full, dressed sets. This way the story would still be the center of the film.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank A Country Christmas Story filmmakers Eric Bross and Steven Peros for sharing their entertaining anecdotes from the shooting of the film, as well as their production advice for students.


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    January 4, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 1164

  • Q&A With Comedian and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Aubree Sweeney

    FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn Monday, October 22, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum Aubree Sweeney returned to campus to perform a stand-up comedy set followed by a Q&A with NYFA screenwriting instructor, Eric Conner.Aubree Sweeney

    Sweeney earned a master’s degree in screenwriting at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. After graduated NYFA’s screenwriting school, she studied with the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational comedy theater and training center in Hollywood; from there, she transitioned to stand-up comedy and now she is a nationally touring comedian. Sweeney continues to build her theatre resume and has been part of several television commercials.

    Conner opened up the Q&A by asking Sweeney’s advice for aspiring comedians. “If stand-up is something you wanna do, just go hit as many open mics as you can,” Sweeney said, “and just keep getting onstage until you feel comfortable.” Sweeney shared that her background as a dancer and a baton-twirler for football games at the University of Arizona helped her with confidence.

    Conner then inquired about Sweeney’s writing process. “Write it, rewrite it, rewrite it again, again, again, don’t look at it for a couple weeks — maybe a semester,” explained Sweeney.

    Aubree SweeneyShe continued, “Write it again, polish it, then you’ve got that confidence because you know this material; you know that it is written to the best of your ability, and then you’re going onstage, and then you’re gonna figure out what that little extra thing [is] that makes it better… I think that most of my confidence in doing stand-up comedy onstage comes from the work not onstage.”

    Sweeney also gave advice about how to deal with the anxiety of being new to performing stand-up, “I would recommend when you first start doing stand-up comedy, at the front, say ‘I’m new.’ I said it was my first show for probably the first 25 shows.”

    Sweeney shared some of the best ways to get gigs as a comedian: promote yourself as much as possible, be resourceful, be open to performing at unconventional venues like business expos and county fairs, and adapt your comedy content for different crowds.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Aubree Sweeney for her performance and for providing insider insight for aspiring comedians at NYFA.

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    November 7, 2018 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1332

  • Recap: New York Film Academy (NYFA) at IFP Week 2018

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    This year, New York Film Academy (NYFA) was honored to help IFP Week celebrate its 40th anniversary. A leader in the independent media community, Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. NYFA was a co-sponsor for the second consecutive year. The week-long event took place at IFP’s state-of-the-art Made in NY Media Center in DUMBO, Brooklyn. A leading voice in the independent film industry, IFP also runs Filmmaker Magazine and the prestigious annual Gotham Awards.

    Andrea Swift moderated an essential #MeToo panel on Saturday. The all-women panel took on difficult but necessary questions about the present and future of the industry in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The panelists discussed what needs to be done both on screen and through media activism. Filmmaker and panelist Shruti Rya Ganguly perceptively said, “The #MeToo movement is not necessarily something new, but a different way of having that conversation.”

    The #MeToo Panel at IFP Week (photo provided by IFP)

    The panel discussed the power of strong journalism and the exact role of social media. They also emphasized the importance of women of color in the aftermath of the #MeToo reckoning. Adding to that, Anne Carey, President of Production at Archer Gray said, “I would hope that the takeaway from this conversation is create a space of safety so people who feel threatened have a place to talk, push to tell the best stories with the best people telling them.”

    NYFA Producing Instructor Krysanne Katsoolis moderated the Looking Abroad panel. This panel discussed the how-to’s and why-not’s of utilizing international co-productions and tax incentives. Katsoolis has significant multi-platform experience in content creation, financing, and distribution. She has produced over 60 films and series, and has worked with Academy and Emmy Award-winning directors. Recently Katsoolis built a media venture (Liquid Media Group) with actor Joshua Jackson, which is now public on NASDAQ.

    NYFA Documentary Chair Andrea Swift (photo provided by IFP)

    In addition to panels and screenings, IFP Week presented Spotlight On Documentaries, a mix of 72 documentary features, non-fiction series, and audio stories ranging from an early financing stage to those nearing completion. NYFA Screenwriting Chair Randy Dottin’s work-in-progress film The Chicago Franchise was selected for a prestigious slot in the Spotlight. The unfinished film was produced

    Veranika Nikanava, NYFA Screenwriting Chair Randy Dottin, and Revital Iyov at IFP Week

    by Randall Dottin and Angela Tucker, and executive produced by Cynthia Kobel. After the city of Chicago tore down its high rise public housing towers in 2011, the murder rate continued to climb. The documentary explores the complicated relationship between gun violence, poverty, and residential segregation — and how they’re all interconnected.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank IFP and the Made in NY Media Center for inclusion, yet again, in such a fantastic and thought-provoking week. We look forward to IFP Week 2019!

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